How Israel's Iron Dome missile defence system intercepts rockets fired by Hamas

In service for nearly a decade to protect Israel from rocket fire from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, Iron Dome is credited with helping Israel to maintain military supremacy

Israel's defence shield

Israel's new version of its "Iron Dome" defence shield has the capability of intercepting drones, missiles and rockets simultaneously.

In service for nearly a decade to protect Israel from rocket fire from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, Iron Dome is credited with helping Israel to maintain military supremacy over its neighbours.

Iron Dome was formally selected as Israel's missile defence system in 2007, the same year the Islamist group Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip.

It was originally designed to intercept rockets and artillery shells fired from a range of four to 70 kilometres (three to 45 miles).

The Israeli Air Force has operated it since 2011, thwarting hundreds of rocket attacks from Gaza and Syria.

(Photograph:AFP)

The Guardian of the Walls

Israel's military operation in Gaza, dubbed "The Guardian of the Walls", has included hundreds of air strike on the blockaded strip.

The head of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, Moshe Patel, said that up to January Iron Dome had intercepted over 2,400 projectiles during the past decade.

With each launch costing reportedly almost $50,000, he told the Times of Israel that it had "saved hundreds of lives". 

Each battery has a radar detection and tracking system, a firing control system and three launchers for 20 interceptor missiles. Each has a range of between four and 70 kilometres (2.5 and 44 miles).

Israel has other missile defence systems such as the Arrow, to counter ballistic missiles, and David's Sling, for medium-range rocket or missile attacks.

Military experts say 13 Iron Dome batteries are needed to be able to defend the whole of Israeli territory, with its tense border with Syria also particularly at risk of attack.

(Photograph:AFP)

US buys Iron Dome

The cutting edge capability of Israel's top military defence system had led the US to buy two batteries in 2017 but the US has since made up its mind not to make any more purchases since it was looked upop as a "short term strategy" for the US Army.

The US already has the THAAD anti-ballistic missile defense system which is mainly used to destroy short and medium-range missiles but it still does not have a short-range air defence system.

The Iron Dome has the capability to carry 10 kg explosives and can intercept projectiles from a close distance of 4 to 70 km.

(Photograph:AFP)

Interception strategy

According to reports, Israel has also used the defence system against Iranian missiles fired by Iran from Syria.

The Israeli government has installed the system in cities as a ground-based installation used to shoot down short-range missiles. Reports say each battery of the dome costs approximately $100 million with missiles costing $50,000.

Israeli authorities began seriously looking for an "interception strategy" during the second Lebanon war in 2006 when rocket attacks killed several citizens.

The Iron Dome was developed the following year to deter any "short range threat" which has been used extensively since then.

(Photograph:AFP)

Israel's defensive strategy

In September last year during Israel's elections, rockets were fired from Gaza which was intercepted by the Iron Dome leading Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cut short an election rally.

The missile system jointly developed jointly by Rafael and Israel's Aerospace Industries and Raytheon, has become the centerpiece of Israel's defensive strategy against Palestinian militants in Gaza.

(Photograph:AFP)

Israel and Hamas

The current exchange of fire has been the the most intensive between Israel and Hamas since a 2014 war in Gaza, and prompted international concern that the situation could spiral out of control.

Into the early hours of Wednesday morning, Gazans reported their homes shaking and the sky lighting up with Israeli attacks, outgoing rockets fired by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and Israeli air defence missiles intercepting them.

Israelis ran for shelters or flattened themselves on pavements in communities more than 70 km (45 miles) up the coast amid sounds of explosions as interceptor missiles streaked into the sky. Israel said hundreds of rockets had been fired by Palestinian militant groups.

 

(Photograph:AFP)

Rocket attack in 2014

Israel said it had sent 80 jets to bomb Gaza, and dispatched infantry and armour to reinforce the tanks already gathered on the border, evoking memories of the last Israeli ground incursion into Gaza to stop rocket attacks, in 2014.

More than 2,100 Gazans were killed in the seven-week war that followed, according to the Gaza health ministry, along with 73 Israelis, and thousands of homes in Gaza were razed by Israeli forces.

Video footage on Tuesday showed three plumes of thick, black smoke rising from the 13-story Gaza block as it toppled over. Nobody was reported killed in the building.

(Photograph:AFP)

Israel demolishes Gaza

The Israeli military said the demolished multi-story building, in Gaza City's Rimal neighbourhood, housed "multiple" Hamas offices, including ones for military research and development and military intelligence.

The existence of one Hamas office in the building, used by political leaders and officials dealing with the news media, was widely known locally.

Civilian residents in the block and the surrounding area had been warned to evacuate the area before the air strike, according to witnesses and the Israeli military. The air strike completely destroyed the building.

(Photograph:AFP)

Over 1,000 rockets fired towards Israel

Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired more than 1,000 rockets towards Israel since Monday evening, when hostilities escalated dramatically following days of unrest in Jerusalem, the Israeli army said.

Army spokesman Jonathan Conricus told reporters Wednesday morning that the figures related to the barrage that began at roughly 6:00 pm (1500 GMT) on Monday evening, when Hamas Islamist launched rockets towards Jerusalem, causing tensions to soar.

Since then, 850 rockets launched by various armed groups in Gaza have landed in Israel or been intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome air defence system.

(Photograph:AFP)

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